World update: September 22-23 2018

ASIA

AFGHANISTAN

At least eight children were killed by a roadside bomb, presumably planted by the Taliban, in Faryab province on Saturday.

It’s nearly impossible to get an official count of the number of Afghan police and soldiers killed by the Taliban and ISIS, mostly because the number is so high that actually releasing it would undermine the Afghan-US war effort:

Taliban insurgents killed so many Afghan security forces in 2016, an average of 22 a day, that by the following year the Afghan and American governments decided to keep battlefield death tolls secret.

It’s much worse now. The daily fatalities among Afghan soldiers and policemen were more than double that last week: roughly 57 a day.

Seventeen years after the United States went to war in Afghanistan, the Taliban is gaining momentum, seizing territory, and killing Afghan security forces in record numbers.

Last week was especially bad, with more than 400 killed, according to an account by diplomats. But even the average numbers in recent months — from 30 to 40 a day, according to senior Afghan officials — represent a substantial upswing from two years ago and appear unsustainable in a country that has been shattered by decades of war.

PAKISTAN

Pakistani soldiers raided several militant hideouts in North Waziristan over the weekend, killing nine insurgents while losing seven of their own number. Elsewhere, unknown gunmen attacked a pro-government militia in Baluchistan on Saturday, killing four people.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan did not appreciate India’s decision on Friday to cancel a planned foreign minister dialogue on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly:

INDIA

Maoist rebels killed a state assembly member in Andhra Pradesh state named Kidari Sarveshwara Rao on Sunday along with at least one other person. In response, a mob of Rao’s supporters, angry at the cops for failing to protect him, attacked two police stations in the province, injuring at least two police officers in the process.

MALDIVES

In what will go down as one of 2018’s great political upsets if it sticks, Maldivian voters on Sunday elected challenger Ibrahim Mohamed Solih by a 17 point landslide over incumbent President Abdulla Yameen. Solih has claimed victory but Yameen has not yet conceded, and given his history of harsh authoritarianism he may try to find a loophole or, failing that, simply ignore the results. Yameen was considered the favorite to win the election if only because he’d put so much effort into rigging the system ahead of time, but it would appear those efforts only galvanized the opposition against him.

Ibrahim_Mohamed_Solih_-_Maldives
Ibrahim Mohamed Solih campaigning (Wikimedia Commons | Suzu)

CHINA

The Chinese government has suspended military talks with the United States in anger over recent US sanctions penalizing China’s purchase of Russian military hardware.

The next round of US tariffs, on $200 billion in Chinese imports, will go online at midnight. Or rather it did go online at midnight in China. Beijing has said it will retaliate with tariffs on another $60 billion in US goods, but after that it will have run out of US imports to penalize.

JAPAN

Japan is rapidly finding itself in a major problem having to do with its massive stockpile of plutonium reactor waste and a long-delayed plan to build a reprocessing facility to turn it back into usable reactor fuel:

More than 30 years ago, when its economy seemed invincible and the Sony Walkman was ubiquitous, Japan decided to build a recycling plant to turn nuclear waste into nuclear fuel. It was supposed to open in 1997, a feat of advanced engineering that would burnish its reputation for high-tech excellence and make the nation even less dependent on others for energy.

Then came a series of blown deadlines as the project hit technical snags and struggled with a Sisyphean list of government-mandated safety upgrades. Seventeen prime ministers came and went, the Japanese economy slipped into a funk and the initial $6.8 billion budget ballooned into $27 billion of spending.

Now, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., the private consortium building the recycling plant, says it really is almost done. But there is a problem: Japan does not use much nuclear power any more. The country turned away from nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and only nine of its 35 reactors are operational.

Now Japan is sitting on 18,000 metric tons of total nuclear waste, and only four of those nine working reactors can even use the reprocessed fuel if it actually does finally bring the plant online. In particular, it’s the proud (?) owner of 47 metric tons of plutonium, which has countries like North Korea accusing Japan of plans to develop nuclear weapons–something Tokyo denies. If the recycling plant doesn’t happen it’s unclear what Japan will do with all that waste.

OCEANIA

AUSTRALIA

The latest Newspoll shows Australia’s Labor Party leading the coalition government 54-46 on a head-to-head preferred basis. That’s actually an improvement on the 12 point Labor lead in polls earlier this month, but it suggests that Scott Morrison’s tenure as prime minister is unlikely to last beyond the next federal election (no later than May of next year).

AFRICA

LIBYA

Libya’s health ministry has once again updated the casualty count from about a month’s worth of fighting between militias in southern Tripoli, and it now counts at least 115 people killed and 383 wounded.

NIGERIA

A new study from the Mines Advisory Group says that at least 162 people have been killed and 277 wounded by landmines in northeastern Nigeria over the past two years. Landmine casualties have risen to around 19 per month in Nigeria, the eighth highest rate in the world.

At least 97 people have died of cholera in northeastern Nigeria in just the past two weeks, out of a total of 3126 diagnosed cases. More than 500 people have died of the illness this year in the Lake Chad area, where the Nigerian military is really struggling against ISIS-West Africa.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on the herder-farmer violence that’s become a fact of life especially in Nigeria’s middle belt:

Across parts of Nigeria, conflicts that mirror the 20th-century range wars in the American West have broken out between farmers and herdsmen vying for land, leading to bloody battles.

In the first six months of this year, these clashes killed an estimated 1,300 people — six times the number who died in the war with the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in the same period, the International Crisis Group says.

About 300,000 people have been forced from their homes because of violence between farmers and herders, conflicts that are often exacerbated by religion, ethnicity and even the erratic weather patterns that accompany climate change and create competition between humans and cattle for water.

SOMALIA

One person was killed and another injured in two al-Shabab car bombs in Mogadishu on Saturday. A day earlier, a US airstrike reportedly killed around 18 al-Shabab fighters in Lower Juba province. The al-Shabab fighters were attacking a joint Somali-US unit that had just killed two other al-Shabab fighters in a skirmish.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

Rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces attacked the town of Beni in the eastern DRC on Saturday, killing 14 civilians and four Congolese soldiers. Of potentially greater concern is that Beni is in the area where the DRC’s most recent Ebola outbreak is currently taking place, and increased rebel activity in that area will disrupt efforts to contain the disease.

SOUTH AFRICA

Some Russian leaders have started up a new initiative in keeping with Vladimir Putin’s overall white ethno-state ethos. They’re inviting white South African farmers–who, according to a particularly pernicious white nationalist myth, are in danger of being dispossessed of their land by the South African government and murdered by black gangs–to relocate to Russia:

Leon du Toit slowly inhales the late summer breeze off fields belonging to a dairy farm not far from Moscow. “Smells just like home,” the 72-year-old South African said.

That’s just what one Russian political figure hopes to hear.

He is leading something of a charm offensive in South Africa with a very particular goal: hoping to lure white South Africans to move 8,000 miles away to rural Russia.

The selling points are abundant farmland, relative safety and a country that holds tight to traditional Christian values.

What is not said — but clearly understood — is how this fits neatly into the identity politics of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

Russia being the white Christian paradise that it is, its population has only recently managed to stabilize after declining for much of the 90s and 00s. So it needs people. White South Africans, particularly Boers, may soon need land to replace what they took from black South Africans under apartheid. Sounds like a great match.

EUROPE

REPUBLIC OF NORTH (?) MACEDONIA

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov on Sunday called for voters to boycott the country’s September 30 referendum on changing its name to the “Republic of North Macedonia.” While the measure is expected to pass the referendum, opponents of the name change want to keep turnout below the 50 percent threshold needed for a valid result. The referendum is only advisory anyway–the real test will come in the Macedonian parliament, which has to vote to amend the country’s constitution to make the change.

GERMANY

Germany’s increasingly dysfunctional ruling coalition isn’t breaking up yet. Though some members of the Social Democrats called for their party to pull out of the coalition over its decision to promote fascist-friendly former domestic spy chief Hans-Georg Maaßen to a higher-paying but less-powerful post in the interior ministry, the coalition has instead agreed to move Maaßen to a different job but without the pay increase.

FRANCE

Emmanuel Macron’s approval rating fell to 29 percent in a new Ifop poll for Le Journal du Dimanche, down from 34 percent last month in the same poll. Another poll from OpinionWay put his approval rating at 28 percent, down from 35 percent in the same poll in July.

UNITED KINGDOM

Though British media reported over the weekend that Theresa May was on the verge of calling a snap election in November in a desperate attempt to save her job and strengthen her position on Brexit, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that “it’s not going to happen.” Nevertheless, the Labour party is planning a membership vote this week on whether or not to back a second Brexit referendum if May is unable to get whatever Brexit deal she negotiates through parliament (which seems quite possible). Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said over the weekend that he would be open to calling for another referendum if the party backed it. Corbyn, who has his own left-wing critique of the European Union, has to this point refused to commit to supporting a second referendum.

AMERICAS

NICARAGUA

New protests rocked Managua on Sunday as demonstrators demanded the release of people imprisoned by Daniel Ortega’s security forces in previous protests. At least one person was killed in clashes with Nicaraguan police and Ortega backers.

Author: DWD

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